Non Steroidal Anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)

Are you using the right Non-Steroidal?

The use of anti inflammatory and painkiller products has increased massively in recent years. The common uses we find are:

Major Reason
Disbudding/ Dehorning Reduce pain, stress, risk of reduced feed intake/ other diseases
Castration Less growth check, less pain, less stress
Any major surgery Better surgical outcomes, pain relief
Calving Problems Reduces inflammation, less risk of DA’s, more rapid transition
Mastitis Reduce cell counts, increases conception rates. Reduced risk culling
Calf Scour Reduce pain, inflammation and better intakes feed and electrolytes
Pneumonia Reduction temperature, less inflammation, more rapid recovery

The use of painkillers is a real opportunity to fine tune and improve productivity on farm. Recent published work has also demonstrated that using NSAIDS for the common calf procedures such as disbudding/ castration and calf scour is beneficial.

The British Cattle Vet Association is now recommending that painkillers are used in all cases of calf castration. Pain reduction at castration reduces the cortisol release and stress responses which impair immune function.

Research has shown that cattle with mastitis treated with Metacam alongside antibiotics have improved fertility and less risk of culling

Further work is showing the benefits of NSAIDs in calf scour. Calf scours are normally caused by viruses and protozoans and the use of NSAIDS will help reduce inflammation and scarring in the gut.

For more detail on the research read on….

Metacam, cell counts and culling

Some of the most important proven benefits of Metacam, for its use in mild to moderate mastitis, were discovered in the Mammary Study1.

This was a study that looked at the effect of treatment with Metacam on milk production, somatic cell count, probability of re-treatment, and culling of dairy cows with mild clinical mastitis. It is the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, involving 727 dairy cows across 15 herds in New Zealand and it looked at a new treatment model of farmer–diagnosed mastitis.

The treatment involved Metacam + Mamyzin (Penethamate hydriodide) vs. Mamyzin alone  (Penethamate hydriodide).

Metacam reduces cell counts in mastitis cases







Adjunctive use of Metacam (combined with an antibiotic) resulted in a significantly lower overall SCC in the Metacam treated group compared to the control vehicle and antibiotic group (p=0.001)1

 Metacam reduces the risk of culling








Adjunctive use of Metacam (combined with an antibiotic) resulted in a highly significant 42% lower culling rate compared to the control vehicle and an antibiotic

Final group cull rates were 16.4% for the Metacam + antibiotic group vs 28.2% for the control vehicle +antibiotic (p<0.001)

  1. McDougall et al (2009) J. Dairy Sci 92:4421-4431

Metacam and calf scours

In clinical trials conducted by a research team at the University of Guelph, Metacam 20 mg/mL Solution for Injection was evaluated as an adjunct therapy in calves with naturally occurring diarrhoea.5 The team determined that calves treated once with Metacam at the onset of diarrhoea:

  • • Had a stronger appetite
    • Needed less assistance when being fed milk
    • Began eating starter feed at a younger age
    • Ate starter feed at a faster rate
    • Consumed more water
    • Had a greater weight gain
    • Exhibited less pain-related behaviour.
    • Tended to be weaned earlier


A single treatment with Metacam 20 mg/mL Solution for Injection at the onset of diarrhoea provided relief from the pain of diarrhoea and, more importantly, helped keep the calves eating and growing and over the trial the Metacam treated calves had an additional 4kg growth rate. This clearly shows the importance of pain relief and the use of NSAIDS in calves


NSAIDs compared

Half life after single injection Length of action Milk withhold Meat withhold
Metacam 26 hours 2-3 days 5 days 15 days
Finadyne 8 hours 24 hours 24 hours 5 days
Rimadyl 30 hours 2-3 days Zero 21 days
Ketofen <1 hour 8-24 hours Zero 24 hours if given  i/v. 4 days i/m

Which NSAID is best?

In terms of cost per day the long acting products such as Rimadyl and Metacam deliver pain relief for about  for 3 days. They also benefit from a single injection sub cut or i/v. The benefits to the cow far exceed this in many cases as the NSAID may protect against the severity of milk drop, other diseases such as DA’s or ketosis

Metacam is very widely researched and has been shown to control clinical symptoms of pain and inflammation for 3 days. Less work and research has been done on Rimadyl.

Rimadyl is a zero milk withhold product and is a very useful product when you are giving pain relief alone e.g managing lame cows.

Metacam is widely used for cell count and reduction of swelling in Grade 2 mastitis cases. If given alongside antibiotics milk withhold is less relevant.

The shorter acting Finadyne is used primarily for acute or toxic mastitis. If this is given I/v it has a very rapid action and is the drug of choice. Finadyne is a very useful drug for acute pain but needs to be repeated daily.

Ketofen is used as an ultra short acting painkiller in cows where meat withholds may be a consideration. A down cow which you may opt to slaughter tomorrow. The product is significantly more expensive than Finadyne


We probably  under use NSAIDS. Try out some Metacam on your next calves you disbud and castrate. Look to use alongside electrolytes in calf scour. Consider the benefits in Grade 2 mastitis in the first 100 days of milk and always consider its use in pneumonia or painful conditions in any aged cattle